This has been a challenging offseason for the Boston Red Sox. They locked up homegrown star Rafael Devers and signed seven free agents to major league contracts, including Kenley Jansen and Masataka Yoshida, but they also lost Xander Bogaerts to free agency and Trevor Story to elbow surgery. When ownership and the front office faced fans at the team's Winter Weekend event Friday, they were greeted with loud boos. The fan base is unhappy, and understandably so.
It's not all bad news for Red Sox nation, however. Erstwhile ace Chris Sale is fully recovered from last year's injuries and will be ready to go when spring training starts up next month, he said Winter Weekend. From the Boston Globe:
"We're good. Humpty Dumpty got put back together," Sale said Saturday during the Red Sox Winter Weekend event.
Sale was positive to the point of near giddiness during a 20-minute conversation with reporters, joking that he turns 34 in March but his arm is only 30 after so much inactivity.
"I'm very, very excited going forward," Sale said. "This is the first spring training I've been able to be excited about in a while. I'm just very appreciative of that.
Sale has made only 11 starts and thrown only 48 1/3 big league innings the last three seasons due to a variety of injuries. He had Tommy John surgery in March 2020, fractured a rib during last offseason's owner-initiated lockout, then had a finger broken by a comeback in his second start back. Sale's 2022 ended when he broke his wrist in a bicycle accident following the finger injury.
When healthy, Sale has been one of the dominant pitchers in the game since making his MLB debut in August 2010, just a few weeks after being the No. 13 pick in the draft. You have to go back to 2018 for his last full and healthy season, however, and it's fair to wonder how effective he can be after so many injuries. Also, with his 34th birthday coming up, Sale's at the point in which normal age-related decline is possible.
This much is for certain: the Red Sox need Sale to be healthy and effective in 2022. Their rotation is not especially deep at the moment. Boston's rotation depth chart looks something like this:
- LHP Chris Sale (11 starts the last three years)
- RHP Nick Pivetta (the staff workhorse)
- RHP Corey Kluber (turns 37 in April)
- LHP James Paxton (six starts the last three years and none since April 2021)
- RHP Garrett Whitlock (converted reliever coming off hip surgery)
- RHP Brayan Bello (career high is 157 1/2 innings in 2022)
- RHP Josh Winckowski (47 runs allowed and only 44 strikeouts in 70 1/3 MLB innings in 2022)
The soon-to-be 37-year-old Kluber and young Mr. Bello are the best bets to give innings -- not even quality innings, necessarily, just innings -- behind Pivetta in 2023. The Red Sox lost Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Wacha to free agency, remember. They have only signed Kluber to replace them, and are banking on Sale and Paxton to stay on the field, among other things.
I suppose the good news is several of Sale's injuries have been fluky. Getting hit by a comeback is bad luck and falling off a bike can be avoided by, you know, not riding a bike. This isn't, say, Paxton, who's had one arm injury after the other. I won't bet against Sale being very effective as long as he's healthy, and right now, he's healthy and ready to go for spring training.
"I owe these people something, I owe everybody," Sale told MLB.com. "I owe my teammates the starting pitcher they thought they were gonna get. I owe the front office the starting pitcher they paid for, and I owe the fans the performances that they're paying to come and see."